The winter season certainly can be a challenging one for truckers like you. Icy roads, snow, blizzards, whiteout conditions and low temperatures can cause accidents, slow travel, lost revenue, delays and more. With these challenges in mind, Trucker Tools recently surveyed truckers from across the country about how to cope with winter driving. Nearly 200 drivers responded to our survey and told us what steps they take to stay safe when they’re on the road during winter months. Keep reading to learn what your fellow truckers have to say about driving safely in winter weather.
Most of the truckers who responded to our survey told us that they lower their speeds when they encounter winter weather in cold weather states. Others report that they avoid using cruise control and don’t use their Jake brakes when driving on snow and ice. The Jake brake only slows your truck, not your trailer, so using the Jake brake on ice and snow can cause you to jack knife.
Traveling close to other cars and trucks during winter weather increases your chances of getting in an accident. That’s why it’s recommended that you avoid traffic, especially on highways where everyone is driving at high speeds. As one trucker told us in our survey: “Stay out of large packs of vehicles. Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Another driver added, “Avoid packs of slow moving traffic — if one slams on the breaks, they all crash.”
As anyone who has lived in or driven through a cold climate knows, black ice often first forms on bridges and overpasses. When it’s cold, the wind is hitting bridges and overpasses on every side, which causes both to lose heat faster than regular road surfaces. Increasing or decreasing your speed on black ice can cause you to lose control of your truck and go off the road.
It goes without saying that keeping your windshield clear of ice and snow is essential when driving in difficult winter weather. Giving your windshield adequate time to defrost and always having a high quality ice scraper in your truck are essential. One trucker who answered our survey told us, “I add ammonia to my wiper fluid so it doesn’t freeze.” Making sure that your wiper blades are in good shape and that your defrost is working properly is important, as well.
Several veteran truckers who answered our survey told us that safe driving in winter conditions often comes down to just approaching the situation with common sense.
“Use a commonsense attitude, such as always first and foremost thinking ahead and preparing yourself for any possible dangerous scenario,” said one trucker. “As I tell many other drivers, always hope for the best and expect the worst. That way you’re always in a defensive mode of driving. This has been very good philosophy for me for over 50 years.”
It’s a good idea to have antifreeze, anti-gel fuel additive, tire chains/grips, road salt, and extra food and blankets on hand when running loads in the winter months in cold climates, as well.